3D Printing Technology Spared Woman from Amputation
Rebecca Chopek faced the possibility of having her right leg amputated below the knee following a car accident. Her case was a medical challenge as a bone popped out of a huge wound in her foot. The doctors never found the talus bone that connected her shinbone to the bottom of her tibia.
The 43-year-old was admitted to a hospital where the doctor recommended a below-knee amputation. So Chopek decided to request a second opinion from St. Luke’s University Health Network.
James Lachman, MD, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at St. Luke’s, told her that her foot could be saved by 3D-printing an artificial talus bone and embedding it into the missing ankle joint.
According to Dr. Lachman, Chopek's foot injury rarely leads to a full recovery. But thanks to the innovative implant, she can walk again. Dr. Lachman studied and authored medical reports about 3D printing during a fellowship training at Duke University. As of this publication, only a few hospitals in the US offer this bone replacement procedure.
Dr. Lachman rebuilt Chopek’s ankle by inserting a metal, 3D-printed talus where the missing bone should be. The piece was printed from a reverse image CT scan of Chopek’s intact left ankle.
After the procedure, Chopek wore a cast for three weeks to allow the wound the heal, followed by a walking boot. After three weeks, she started physical therapy to improve her range of motion, and by six weeks, she was bearing weight. Chopek exchanged the walking boot for a supportive sneaker on the eighth week.A few months after her 2020 accident, Chopek returned to her active life.